Free Essay

The Air We Breathe

In: English and Literature

Submitted By amstuart73
Words 1878
Pages 8
Xx
J. B.
English 101
March 20, 2010
“Is Air Pollution a Belief?” Winter-Koger’s essay “What on Earth Are We Doing?” discusses many environmental problems, e.g.: ozone depletion, global warming, overpopulation, deforestation, air and water pollution, topsoil loss, and coral reef destruction. While it is difficult to isolate one problem to discuss, as they are all equally, important environmental problems; I have decided to research the effects of outdoor air pollution. I am interested particularly in whether the United States has made any positive changes for cleaner air, or added to the negative impacts on two of six different types of air pollution-ozone(smog) and particle pollution (particulate matter) since Winter-Koger’s essay (2004). Air pollution is one of the many environmental problems faced each day around the world. Man has always been a solid contributor to environmental pollution, a problem passed on from generation to generation. Air pollution is not a belief that one has; but a real problem that absolutely does exist. Many people have dedicated their lives to finding a solution to the detrimental effects of air pollution. And many people, unknowingly, and some ignorantly, have dedicated their lives to contributing to air pollution. To better understand the effects of air pollution, one must first understand the definition of air pollution and how it is caused. You may disagree and feel you know the definition of air pollution; but ask the person next to you to define air pollution, and soon you will find that many people do not have a true understanding of air pollution. Air pollution occurs when high levels of gases, chemicals, fumes, and dust released into the air have become harmful to humans and living organisms, and damages structures and the environment. There are six pollutants, also known as greenhouse gases (except for lead) that contribute to air pollution: ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter (also known as particle pollution), and sulfur dioxide Ozone, O, another word most of us are aware of but unsure of its definition, is an unstable, poisonous allotrope-having 3 atoms-of oxygen that is highly reactive, and the primary cause of smog. According to Professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri’s website, ozone is commercially used as bleach for waxes, oils, and textiles, and as a deodorizing agent; it is also used to sterilize the air and our drinking water. Ozone is highly reactive when combined with nitrous oxide, NOx, and hydrocarbons, or volatile organic compounds, VOC, heat and sunlight. NOx is emitted when fuel is burned by cars and trucks and VOC is emitted from factories, power plants and other sources. Hot, sunny days make quite the combination for higher levels of ozone in areas of higher congestion and industrial areas. Higher levels of ozone has been the cause of great concern as it causes many pulmonary problems ranging from irritation of the respiratory tract to asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, chest pain when inhaled deeply and in some cases, premature death (ALA). The American Lung Association, ALA, closely monitors ozone levels effects on senior citizens, teens, children, and people already suffering with asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Set by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in 1997, the last time the acceptable ozone level at ground-level had been changed, ozone levels measured at 80 parts per billion (ppb). In 2008, the EPA realized this level was too high and tightened restrictions in an effort for safer levels of ozone. Since Winter-Koger’s essay, the levels of ozone in the United States have decreased year after year. Year | Mean (ppb) | 2002 | 0.08794186 | 2003 | 0.0818876 | 2004 | 0.07460853 | 2005 | 0.07982946 | 2006 | 0.07824806 | 2007 | 0.07855814 | 2008 | 0.07471705 |

Regardless of the yearly decrease, in January of 2010, two years after changing the accepted level of ozone, the EPA is reconsidering lowering the levels anywhere from 60-70 ppb, a level providing better protection for not only children, senior citizens, and those already suffering from pulmonary health problems, but vegetation. Even though the outcome will not be known in time for my research paper as a deadline for any written proposals to be submitted to the EPA have a deadline of March 22, 2010, and a decision will not be made until all proposals have been read, the current accepted level from 2008 is definitely a step in the right direction. Just out of curiosity, I took the liberty of pulling up the annual report for Bellingham’s ozone air quality (graph shown above), which shows extremely excellent ozone air quality, well below the accepted level set by the EPA. County | Measurement in PPb | Clark | 0.059 | King | 0.074 | Klickitat | 0.064 | Pierce | 0.070 | Skagit | 0.046 | Spokane | 0.068 | Whatcom | 0.057 | As a resident of Washington State, I also wanted to show that all counties from 2004-2006 were all under the accepted level of 75 ppb; King County was the only county that comes close to exceeding the accepted levels.
(Information came from the EPA’s website, but cannot be found as formatted.)

The second type of air pollution I will discuss is particle pollution, or particulate matter. Particle pollution is microscopic and more dangerous for humans to breathe. It occurs when a variety of pollutants are released in a number of ways: released from power plants, industries, buses, and diesel trucks; allergens from fragments of pollen or mold spores; dirt or dust stirred up from vehicles or the wind in treeless, unprotected areas, soil, chemicals, and metals. The particle pollutants that form are sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, fine particles, and mercury. The ALA is more concerned with the effects of these particle pollutants because they trigger heart attacks, strokes, irregular heartbeats, and cause lung cancer and premature births. Particle pollution harms people even on days their levels are very low; when they exceed higher levels, particle pollution worsens the symptoms of serious respiratory disorders and causes wheezing and coughing. In 2007, according to a report done by the National Resources Defense Council, about 30,000 people may be dying prematurely each year in the United States (175 each day) from cardio-pulmonary diseases linked to particulate air pollution. In an article written by Jennifer Weeks, in 2001, the Bush administration proposed spending $2 billion over 10 years to develop plants that burn coal more efficiently and produce less pollution, but not without clarifying to Americans “that a lot of our money would be spent on developing clean coal technologies” (Weeks). Though President Bush made millions of Americans second guess the need for a better technology for burning coal, I have yet to find any research that shows the Obama Administration has made a decision on this topic. Instead, I have found that articles claiming the Obama Administration is stalling in dealing with this particular topic; this is definitely not a step in the right direction. Air pollution from ozone pollution and particulate matter causes high levels of carbon emissions to be released into the atmosphere, not only harming humans and living organisms but causing the most amount of damage to the Earth’s atmosphere and contributing to climate change (Morrison). Winter-Koger’s essay mentioned that carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere had increased by 31% since 1750 (Winter-Koger, 15). A more current measurement of carbon emissions into the Earth’s atmosphere is now monitored by the CO2 NOW Organization at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii; recording levels of carbon emissions still increasing year after year since they went online just a few years ago. In February 2010, the amount of carbon emissions measured 389.91 parts per million (ppm); the amount of carbon emissions shown from documents in 2001 measured 371.07 ppm (CO2). Carbon emissions are needed to trap greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, creating the greenhouse effect necessary to stabilize atmospheric temperatures and maintain a climate suitable for life on this planet; however, levels in the upper atmosphere of over 350 ppm are not considered safe or ideal. The affects of this higher measurement is shown with global warming and changing climate temperatures. Winter-Koger’s mentioned the Bush administration “reduced funding for research into cleaner, more efficient vehicles. The EPA, as you may remember is an agency that was set up by the White House and Congress in 1971 to repair damage done to the environment and set new criteria and standards for all Americans to follow in order to provide a cleaner environment. To ensure the EPA does its job, Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, revising it several times since 1955, and requiring the EPA seek approval from Congress first before setting new standards. With just two years under his presidency, on December 7, 2009, "the Obama administration's decision to comply with the Clean Air Act and move forward with a process that can lead to large reductions in greenhouse gas pollution is a major step forward in the fight to stabilize the climate” marked another important change in U.S. history. With this announcement and unilateral authority, the EPA wasted no time in publicly announcing that greenhouse gases to be toxic to human health and the environment. The EPA can now set new standards for carbon emissions for power plants, factories, and cars without the approval from Congress; a decision that has brought new hope to many legislators and weariness to many others. President Obama can now oversee new federal standards on auto emissions and mileage for cars and light trucks with the help from the EPA and the Transportation Department, with an average of 35 miles per gallon taking effect in 2012. This may seem like such a long time before any changes are made, but the healing process does take time. These problems did not occur overnight, and unfortunately, they will not be repaired overnight. We ALL choose to pollute our environment on a daily basis; we should ALL be held responsible in making the environment cleaner. President Obama is definitely leading us in a more positive direction to finding positive solutions to air pollution by holding all accountable their actions.

Works Cited
Winter, Deborah Du Nann., and Susan M. Koger. "What on Earth Are We Doing?" The Psychology of Environmental Problems. 2nd ed. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004. 1-25.
Morrison, Matt. "Protecting the Environment: Reducing Carbon Emissions." www.articlesalley.com. 02 Mar. 2009. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. http://www.articlesalley.com/.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. http://www.epa.gov/.
State of the Air: 2009 Report -- American Lung Association. American Lung Association, 2008. Web. 19 Mar. 2010. http://www.lungusa.org/.
Science Is Fun in the Lab of Shakhashiri. Ed. Bassam Z. Shakhashiri. Web. 20 Mar. 2010. http://www.scifun.org/.
Current Data for Atmospheric CO2. Co2Now.org. Pro Oxygen, 2008. Web. 21 Mar. 2010. http://co2now.org/.
"Outdoor Air Pollution." Health and Energy Company. Web. 20 Mar. 2010. http://healthandenergy.com/outdoor_air_pollution.htm.
Weeks, Jennifer. “Coal's Comeback.” CQ Researcher 17. 35 (2007): 817-840. CQ Press. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2007100500. March 12, 2010.
Choi, Jenny. “Obama Announces Auto Emissions and Mileage Standards.” May 2009. http://www.publicagenda.org/print/17407.

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